At the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man who solicited her for sex.
The young girl had been beaten and sexually abused by her pimp “Kutthroat”, who frequently forced her to go home with grown men. And yet, when the Tenessee Supreme Court recently addressed her case, they ruled that the now 31-year-old must serve 51 years before even the possibility of parole.
This recent ruling has elicited outrage from the public and celebrities alike, with Rihanna becoming a fierce advocate for Cyntoia’s release. And as more information comes out about the case, it’s become evident that Cyntoia never got a fair shot in the first place.
At her original trial, her lawyers didn’t allow her to testify. They also failed to discuss her traumatic childhood, which most likely informed her mental state at the time of the murder.
It’s not quite clear as to why her former attorneys felt it was best for her to keep quiet. But her forced silence did not work in her favor. It wasn’t discussed that her biological mother drank throughout her pregnancy; which most likely cause Cyntoia to develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was soon adopted as a baby and, although her adoptive mother tried to give her a stable home, Cyntoia ran away as a teen and met Kutthroat.
On the night of the killing, she had gone home with a john, who grabbed her hard between the legs. According to BBC, she said,
“I’m thinking he’s going to hit me or do something like it.”
She pleaded self-defense but the jury ultimately found her guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.
Watching videos of the trial is upsetting, to say the least. The court paints the victim as completely innocent — despite soliciting sex from a minor — and portrays Cyntoia as a heartless teen who planned to murder and rob him.
Over the past 14 years, more heart-wrenching details come out about Cyntoia’s life, but it hasn’t made a difference to the court. It’s clear that the justice system doesn’t care about women, and particularly, Black women.
Cyntoia’s sentencing is painfully ironic when you consider the recent, high-profile sexual assault cases like those of Brock Turner, who raped an unconscious woman only to receive 3 months in prison, and Jacob Walter Anderson, who was indicted on four sexual assault charges only to walk away with a $400 fine. How can these men get away with violent acts against women?
And yet when a girl is abused and raped for years, she has to spend the rest of her life in jail for self-defense.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the justice system does not care about black women. There is no way anyone can read her story and agree that she deserves this sentence.
The system is constantly failing young women. And yet time and time again, white males, especially those with money and privilege, always come out on top.
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